To put it simply, lean manufacturing espouses the 'no waste' philosophy in managing the workplace and production processes. It does not know any company size. Whether it's a major corporation or a small group of five housewives with a cookie business, successful lean manufacturing techniques lie in the implementation and the discipline of those participating in it.
Experts say that lean manufacturing first gained popularity in Japan, a country best known for its highly unique and innovative approaches to a variety of products and methods, including problem-solving strategies.
Lean manufacturing principles border on the practical and the simple. But, again, while they can be easily understood and implemented, maintaining the right attitude throughout is a different story.
Because of the success lean manufacturing has brought to the companies that adopt it... Toyota, for instance ... firms are now seeking to apply the strategy to their own corporations.
It is a fact that with rising energy prices and intensifying competition, all firms need to reduce costs. Reading business journals, you can see that firms are filing for bankruptcy left and right, citing mismanagement as the most common cause of the Chapter 11 filings. Even the most stable companies have fallen prey to poor management tactics. This is why lean manufacturing is starting to become the overhaul method of choice for firms wanting to get back on track.
The success of lean manufacturing is determined by how companies deal with and initiate ways to achieve maximum benefits from the resources available to them without having to spend too much. Success is also driven by the reduction and eventual elimination of the so-called wastes of corporate environments.
These wastes have been identified as:
- Transportation - the movement of goods more than what is minimally needed
- Motion - employees working more than what is minimally required
- Defects - the efforts linked with inspecting and fixing problems
- Processing - conducting more work than what is actually needed
- Overproduction - leading to wasteful stockpiles and inventory
When a company overproduces a certain product, chances are that this product will end up being sold at a price that is a lot lower than intended. The manufacturer will be pressured to sell everything and, thus, be forced to offload at rock bottom rates to make this happen.
A successful lean manufacturing program will make sure this does not happen to your company. Instead, it will push for a production level that is just adequate and delivered at the right time it is needed, without time and product excesses.
For the part of the consumer, this is good. They know exactly what they are paying for. For the part of the manufacturer, this is also positive, because nothing is wasted. Not resources, not energy, not time.
However, as said earlier, to achieve lean manufacturing success still relies on how it is adopted. In short, it is all up to you. Lean manufacturing requires careful planning at the onset. If you go into it haphazardly and not focus on the possible consequences, then you might as well have not undergone it all.